By: Ashley Valera
Coachella is not just a weekend of music and good times but a place where celebrities and festival goers show off their trendiest outfits. Most people spend weeks even months before hand looking for and planning out their outfits to make sure they’re the most memorable. But recently there have been many instances of people being remembered not for their fashion but for their bad taste. There has been a backlash this festival season for festival goers who have been choosing to wear Native American headdresses as part of their festival fashion. This is because using these as accessories is highly offensive and disrespectful to Native American’s and their culture. It not only shows bad taste but also ignorance to what the actual pieces mean to the Native American culture.
From cultural appropriation to enabling stereotypes there are many reasons why people should not be wearing Native American headdresses especially if they don’t understand the context of it in Native American culture. Women do not typically wear these types of headdresses called “war bonnets” in their culture, instead they are granted to elders and other men who have earned the right to wear them. Therefore these bonnets are symbols of gratitude and respect only given to those who deserve it and by making cheap duplicates as accessories completely diminishes the meaning behind it.
But in the media, more often than not, we see headdresses on women as a “sexy Indian” look instead of on men for an inaccurate representation of its meaning. For example, around the time of Halloween any costume store you go to will probably have some type of “Native American outfit”. These costumes even come in children sizes which teaches them from a young age that this is how Native Americans look. Which not only disrespects their culture by using it as a costume but also implies a stereotype about what they wear. This is an example of cultural appropriation which is “the adoption or theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior from one culture or subculture by another”. It often occurs with no knowledge of the real traditions or reasons behind them and instead is just adopted into pop culture as a “trend”. This can perpetuate stereotypes about the culture and in this case this creates a mold as to what Native Americans are supposed to look like and wear which isn’t an accurate depiction.
In fact, even some very well-known brands such as Victoria’s Secret have used Native American headdresses in their campaigns and their very popular fashion show back in 2012. Victoria’s Secret and their model Karli Kloss have since apologized publicly for their insensitivity after they got a negative backlash from fans when displaying this headdress in the show:
Other celebrities have since also posed in the media wearing Native American headdresses especially with festival season approaching. Most recently, model Alessandra Ambrosio took to Instagram with this picture and commenting “becoming more inspired for @coachella with this amazing Native American headpiece”.
She also received negative feedback from fans and has since taken the picture down. This is why people need to realize the meaning behind the Native American headdress and become educated about the culture so that these instances of appropriation don’t continue happening. Posing in the headdress, offending someone, and regretting it is this cycle that we see happening but the issue still isn’t being fixed. Therefore, people are still choosing to wear Native American headdresses as a part of their “trend” but ignoring the fact that there is a significant meaning behind them. This is why festival goers should rethink their outfits, if they will be wearing a headdress, because there are many other accessories that they can decorate there looks with and they can do so without offending an entire culture.
Cultural appropriation definition: “Cultural Appreciation or Cultural Appropriation?” Unsettling America. N.p., 16 Sept. 2011. Web. 08 May 2017.